Fort Tule, China Dam

Name: Fort Tule and the China Dam

  • Fort Tule –  34° 0’20.24″N, 112°16’19.42″W
  • China Dam –  33°58’19.00″N, 112°17’37.19″W

Date visited: Nov 21st, 2015
Info Link: Bureau of Land Management


If you’re looking for a fun, but not too difficult trail, the road to Fort Tule is ideal. Allyson and I had the fortune of having my parents join us on this trail. Allyson had her 25th birthday and instead of having a birthday dinner at a restaurant, she decided she’d rather have a picnic during a Jeep ride. We met my parents, who drove their Prius, at the staging area. Had some birthday cheesecake, and were headed off for the trail.

The very first part of the trail is a super steep hill. We put the Jeep in 4WD Low and had no trouble getting over the top of it. At the top, we spotted a really easy bypass, which we’d take on the return trip only because the sun was setting. The trail brings you up over a hill and soon you find yourself at a split in the road. Go left, and you head toward the China Dam, or go right and you head toward Fort Tule. Even though we intended to go to the China Dam first, we read the map wrong and headed toward Fort Tule.

The road descends down toward Humbug Creek. When we passed, the creek was dry, and we were able to drive right over it. On the other side of the creek, we encountered a steep hill. My dad insisted on getting a photo of the Jeep climbing the hill, but it turned out to look a lot less steep in the photo than it was in real life.

Photo Credit - Jeff Lee

On the way down to the river. Photo credit – Jeff Lee

The "steep" hill. Photo Credit - Jeff Lee

The “steep” hill. Photo Credit – Jeff Lee

Not to worry though, he got a good photo a short ways down the trail.

Finally, a hill that actually looks steep. Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Finally, a hill that actually looks steep. Photo credit – Jeff Lee

We rode the trail a ways, surrounded by Jumping Cholla on either side. Finally we arrived at a sign that indicated we had arrived at the Tule Creek Riparian Area. Since vehicles are not allowed in the preserve, we walked the last 300 or so feet to the house at Fort Tule.

Jumping Chollas. Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Jumping Chollas. Photo credit – Jeff Lee

Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Photo credit – Jeff Lee

The house is an old miner’s house. According to my research, in 2007, a bad storm took off it’s roof. Despite the roof, the house is in very good condition, considering it’s age and lack of maintenance. If you walk around the house, you may spot what appears to be a shed or a barn, and a grave for the miner’s dog.

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We headed back the way we came. As we were leaving the riparian area, we spotted a group of five burros.

Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Photo credit – Jeff Lee

When we got back to the split in the road, we headed off toward the China Dam, like we first intended to do. The road there was similar to the road up to the fort. On the way we spotted a rare “crested” saguaro cactus. Scientists aren’t sure what causes the cresting, but some think it’s either a genetic mutation, or a lightning strike that causes it.

Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Photo credit – Jeff Lee

The dam is only a short ways down the road. It only took us a few minutes to reach it from the split in the road. We parked on top of the dam and walked down to explore.

The dam was built by Chinese immigrants who were looking to mine gold. There are actually two dams. One concrete one, and a stone one as well. The stone one has a hole in it.
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The sun was setting, so we headed back to the Bradshaw Foothills Staging Area, where we cooked our dinner on our portable stove, and packed up to leave.

This was a great trail. It will push a stock Jeep, but should be entirely passable in a stock vehicle. It allows for a lot of sight-seeing, and places to break. We didn’t see a single other vehicle on the trail. There were plenty at the staging area, but none on the trails.

By the way, my parents sold everything they own, and now travel across the country house-sitting. We had the fortune to have them on our own adventure. Check out their adventures at The Tails of Jeff and Charli.

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